When the Shuttle program nearly ended - in 1988
March 28, 2009 3:36 AM Subscribe
"I said to myself, 'we are going to die.'" Space Shuttle commander Hoot Gibson on his reaction as he saw pictures from the Shuttle's robot arm of gouged and missing tiles along its underbelly. Shades of Columbia - but this was mission STS-27, over fourteen years earlier. Yet mission control discounted the reports from orbit, perhaps misled by the poor quality of the downlinked images that resulted from encryption demanded by the mission's secretive military profile. In the end, Atlantis made it back, but with visible damage along her right flank. But like most classified DoD missions of the time, little was reported, and NASA was arguably wary of drawing attention to the near-loss of only the second flight since the Challenger disaster. But if this near-miss had been better known, might NASA have been more concerned about indications of debris damage during the launch of STS-107?
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